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S/Korea, US conduct rare drills with air carrier

South Korea and the US have carried out their first combined military exercises involving an American aircraft carrier in more than four years.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced the drills on Saturday, amid reports that North Korea was preparing for a nuclear test.

Reuters reported the JCS as saying that the three-day exercises occurred in international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa until Saturday, including air defence, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and maritime interdiction operations.

The drills came amid signs that neighbouring communist North Korea is gearing up to carry out a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

Officials in Seoul have said Pyongyang has conducted multiple experiments with a detonation device in preparation for its seventh underground explosion.

Washington, which played a pivotal role in the stalemated outcome of the Korean War from 1950-1953, has been demanding that the North surrenders its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for the lifting of far-reaching sanctions.

Pyongyang, on the other hand, insists that it needs the arms programme to ward off what it sees as an existential threat posed by the US and its allies. It also insists that tens of thousands of US forces, deployed in the Korean Peninsula since the war, must be withdrawn alongside the nuclear threat they pose.

During the administration of President Donald Trump, Washington held a couple of historic talks with the North, but Mr Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un said their widely-trumpeted summits could not produce satisfactory outcomes due to either side’s firmly entrenched positions.

Writing by Tony Okerafor